Formative Experiences

By George A. Boyd ©2017

A formative experience is one that shapes identity, life narrative, and your sense of the world—whether it is safe or threatening; whether you are an effective change maker in your life or you are largely at effect of your circumstances. There are seven major types of formative experiences:

  1. Trauma – This is an event, or series of events, that take place where another person, or a catastrophic natural phenomenon, harms you, and teaches you that other people, or the world is not safe. The psychological repercussions of this event include lasting fear and vigilance towards any similar occurrence. You feel a need to protect your body, family and loved ones, and your possessions from a re-occurrence of this event. If another person has perpetrated this event, and you assess their motivation to be malevolent, trauma can also spur anger, rage, and a powerful drive for revenge.
  2. Acknowledgement – This is an experience when someone truly sees you, hears, you, and lets you know you are known. Acknowledgement is the key to you owning your authentic Self; it gives you permission to be who you are. When you are acknowledged, you feel loved and known—this can be a very healing experience, which can help you rebuild your self-esteem.
  3. Successful performance – This is the first time you do something on your own. Think back to when you first rode a bike or a car on your own, or first gave a public speech. Successful performance builds confidence, a sense of competence and efficacy, and expands your capability. Successful performance enhances your self-esteem and brings healthy personal pride.
  4. Spiritual awakening – This typically have this experience during a mystical or peak experience, or a near death experience, where you discover you are a conscious essence beyond the body, and you awaken as your attentional principle, your spirit, or your Soul. Spiritual awakening introduces you to the immortal principles within yourself—and if you do not slam the door shut out of fear—this deeper aspect of yourself will reveal its gifts, and bestow upon you an intuition of a greater purpose or mission.
  5. Academic or vocational calling – This occurs when you read something in a book, watch a video, hear a lecture or attend a class, or observe someone perform the actions of their career, and you realize that this topic or career you are encountering or witnessing is what you want to study and do in your life. This discovery of your academic or career track happens when you recognize this is what you genuinely want to do. Excitement and enthusiasm mark this discovery: it makes you want to learn all you can about this topic or this career.
  6. Awakening of faith in God – Faith arises when you encounter a universal or cosmic being that appears to you to be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, and you choose to establish a relationship with this being. Encountering this being awakens feels of reverence, devotion, awe, humility, and love for this being. Those who follow religions and spiritual groups in which there is a ritualized tradition of worship develop faith. Faith shapes their whole lives through inculcating moral values, encouraging specific prayers and meditations, and encouraging the practice of ceremonies or rituals that deepen identification as a member of that group.
  7. Transformation – There are two types of transformation: personal and spiritual.
    • Personal transformation is a radical change in your personal life or circumstances that you attribute to the guidance or coaching of another person or a miraculous, supernatural phenomenon. You can also initiate personal transformation through your choice to establish new habits, to operate from an alternative mindset, and to do things in a new and better way.
    • Spiritual transformation takes two major forms: rebirth and movement into a new state of being.
    • Rebirth is a change of perception of who you are. Rebirth occurs when you receive an attunement—receiving the Holy Spirit, Shaktipat, or Light Immersion—that brings your attention into union with a spiritual essence. Depending on the attunement you receive, this spiritual essence can be your spirit, a nucleus of identity, or an ensouling entity. In rebirth, you experience that this essence is your true nature. The rebirth experience can also be generated when you listen to the retelling of a mystery tale, or you receive formal diksha—the conveying of meditation instructions that enable you to gain union with a spiritual essence.
    • Movement of your spiritual essence to a new state of being, which is called Initiation or Samadhi, occurs when your Soul—or other spiritual essence—progresses along its track into a new nodal point. This unfolding bestows new knowledge; new love, understanding, and virtue; and awakens heretofore dormant abilities. [We teach you how to generate spiritual transformation in our intermediate courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation, or the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.]

These formative experiences become a permanent part of your life story.

  • If you have one or more traumatic experiences in your life, your life story may have to do with how you are coping with the aftermath of that experience, or how you have learned to overcome it.
  • If it is acknowledgement that changes your life, you may be on a mission to acknowledge, validate, and empower others. Many therapists, counselors, healers, and coaches trace their choice to enter a helping profession to their own experience of being truly loved, known, and accepted.
  • If successful performance has changed your life, you may be an advocate of performing successful action and establishing a track record of success. You may believe that you can set goals and achieve whatever you visualize. You may have gone on to achieve career and life success and wealth through implementing this key life strategy.
  • If spiritual awakening has dawned in your life, you may have completely transformed how you live, how you see the world, and to what you now commit your life. Spiritual awakening may radically transform your priorities.
  • If you have had clear insight into your academic or career calling, you typically have followed that lead to gain the education and training that enables you to do that as your life’s work.
  • If you have had the awakening of faith, you may have felt led to join a religious or spiritual group, which has instilled new values and reformed your character, shaped your beliefs and behavior through adherence to the principles of your faith’s scriptures, and inspired you to attempt to commune with the spiritual being your worship through prayer and meditation.
  • If you have undergone personal transformation, you have undergone changes that have completely revolutionized your life.
  • If you have undergone spiritual transformation, your worldview, and every aspect of your Soul—or other spiritual essence you are transforming—has expanded into a deeper, wiser, and more loving state of being.

It is important to reflect upon what were your formative experiences, and how they have shaped who you are today. Some people have several formative experiences. Some have only one. A few people have never had one of these major formative experiences.

  • What formative experiences have you had?
  • How did this experience impact your life? Affect your spirituality? How is your life or spirituality different?
  • Have your formative experiences had negative consequences in your life? How?
  • Have your formative experiences produced positive outcomes in your life? In what ways has your life been improved or enhanced?
  • If you had not had this formative experience, how would your life be different?
  • What new strengths or abilities have come to you as the result of your formative experiences?
  • What new insights did your formative experiences provide for you?
  • How have your formative experiences influenced your relationships, your career, or your life direction?

Formative experiences can be a powerful catalyst for change and growth. However, in some cases, when these experiences are negative, they can cast a shadow upon everything in your life. How you use the opportunity a formative experience provides you can open your life to new possibilities that make all the difference in your life and spirituality.

May you be rightly guided to utilize these experiences to gain maximum benefit.

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